Purge victim dies after heart attack in Turkish prison

Bayram Tekin, a former police officer who was fired by a government decree as part of purges that followed a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and subsequently jailed, died on Sunday after a heart attack in Ankara’s Sincan Prison, the Kronos news website reported.

Tekin suffered a heart attack on June 16 and was taken to a hospital, where he died two days later. He had also been hospitalized for three weeks in April due to cardiac disease and underwent bypass surgery in 2021. His family had repeatedly requested his release from prison so he could seek proper medical treatment. 

Tekin had been sentenced to more than six years in prison over alleged links to the Gülen movement. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

Seventy-three inmates died in Turkish prisons in 2022, according to a report by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

The report was drafted based on information received by lawyers and families of inmates who died in Turkish prisons. According to the report, 39 prisoners died of serious illness and 34 by suicide.

Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing seriously ill prisoners so they can seek proper treatment.

Gergerlioğlu previously said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of murder committed by the state.

According to statistics published by the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are 1,517 sick inmates in prisons, 65 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released. Authorities refuse to free them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society.

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